The Producer of the Harry Potter films, David Heyman, focused his work on adapting books to films. So in 1997, when an assistant handed him an as-yet-unpublished manuscript about a boy wizard, he instantly fell in love with it and was determined to make a film of it.
However, the process was long and arduous, with J.K. Rowling not agreeing to sell the rights for the first four Harry Potter books to Warner Brothers until 1999. She has said that she chose them because of their ability to successfully adapt children’s books to films: particularly noting their 1995 film A Little Princess, which was incidentally directed by future Harry Potter director, Alfonso Cuarón.
Rowling was insistent that the entire principal cast consist of British actors, which Warner Brothers attended faithfully to throughout the series. This was perhaps one of the reasons why Chris Columbus was chosen to direct the first two films, as he had previously written the script for a film called Young Sherlock Holmes, which was essentially a very British film.
Columbus was appointed director in early 2000, and the film was set to be released in November 2001. The main challenge now facing him was deciding who would play the three central characters: Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger.
The casting of each is now widely known throughout the fandom. Although Emma Watson’s audition process seems fairly normal – casting agents visited her school, and she quickly won more and more auditions until she finally sat for a screen test with her future co-stars – Rupert Grint’s is almost legendary. After seeing a piece on children’s television programme ‘Newsround,’ he famously sent in a video of himself imitating his drama teacher and rapping. He says that he saw many similarities between himself and Ron, as they were both ginger and came from large families.
Daniel Radcliffe’s appointment is perhaps the most interesting because of the uncanny coincidence that occurred. Chris Columbus and David Heyman had seen him in the 1999 film David Copperfield – another book adaptation – and contacted his parents to see if he would be interested in playing Harry. Although they were unwilling at first, worrying about the inescapable fame that would certainly come with such a role, they were finally convinced one night at the theatre. The Radcliffes and their son took their seats in the auditorium, only to find that they were seated directly behind David Heyman and Chris Columbus. Heyman kept turning around to stare at this young boy throughout the performance, and it was after the Radcliffes realised that this was ‘destiny’ that they finally agreed to allow their son to audition. Shortly afterwards, he won the role.
As the popularity of the films increased, so did the amount of people who wanted to become involved with it. Over 3,000 girls attended open auditions in London, clamouring to win the part of Harry Potter’s first love interest, Cho Chang; and around 15,000 girls auditioned for Luna Lovegood. Over 7,000 girls auditioned to play Lavender Brown in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
In the box office, the Harry Potter series has done incredibly well. It is officially the biggest franchise of all time, grossing over $7 billion. In total revenue, it is even head of both the Star Wars and James Bond franchises. Additionally, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is the third highest-grossing film of all time, behind only Avatar and Titanic, both directed by James Cameron.
Despite their enormous success in the box office, there is one area in which the Harry Potter series has been notoriously ignored. Unlike the other top five film franchises of all time, it has never won an Oscar. Although it has garnered 12 Academy Award nominations (mainly in the Art and Special Effects departments), it has never won a single award. This has been a source of great contention for the fans of the series, especially after the highly-anticipated release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, which was considered deserving of some of the more prestigious awards, such as Best Picture. However, its success in many other film award shows does suggest that it has been recognised by the majority of critics and fans.
A breakdown of the films and their achievements:
Release date: 16th November, 2001
Awards include: Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror – Best Costumes; Empire Awards –
Outstanding Contribution to British cinema; Satellite Awards – Rupert Grint, Outstanding New Talent; Evening Standard British Film Awards – Best Technical/Artistic Achievement
– Total Domestic: $317,575,550
– Total International: $974,755,371
– Opening Weekend Domestic: $90,294,261
– Opening Weekend International: $164,838,055
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 80%
Chamber of Secrets
Release date: 15th November 2002
Awards include: BAFTA Awards – Kids’ Vote; Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards – Best Composer, Best Family Film – Live Action; Empire Awards – Outstanding Contribution to British Film; London Critics Circle Film Awards – Kenneth Branagh, British Supporting Actor of the Year
– Total Domestic: $261,988,482
– Total International: $878,979,634
– Opening Weekend Domestic: $88,357,488
– Opening Weekend International: $147,857,488
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 83%
Prisoner of Azkaban
Release date: 31st May 2004 (UK), 4th June 2004 (US)
Awards include: BAFTA Awards – Audience Award, Best Feature Film – Children’s; Empire Awards – Outstanding Contribution to British Film; Teen Choice Awards – Choice Movie –Drama/Action Adventure; Visual Effects Society Awards – Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects-Driven Motion Picture
– Total Domestic: $249,541,069
– Total International: $796,688,549
– Opening Weekend Domestic: $93, 687,367
– Opening Weekend International: $207,197,367
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 91%
Goblet of Fire
Release date: 18th November 2005
Awards include: BAFTA Awards – Best Production Design; Empire Awards – Outstanding Contribution to British Film; Motion Picture Sound Editors – Best Sound Editing in Feature Film – Foreign
– Total Domestic: $290,013,036
– Total International: $896,911,078
– Opening Weekend Domestic: $102,685,961
– Opening Weekend International: $188,185,961
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 88%
Order of the Phoenix
Release date: 11th July 2007 (US), 12th July 2007 (UK)
Award include: Golden Trailer Award – Summer 2007 Blockbuster
– Total Domestic: $292,004,738
– Total International: $939,885,929
– Opening Weekend Domestic: $77,108,414
– Opening Weekend International: $270,108,414
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 78%
Release date: 15th July 2009
Awards include: Art Directors’ Guild – Contribution to Cinematic Imagery Award; Phoenix Film Critics Society Award – Best Live Action Family Film; SFX Awards, UK – Best Film
– Total Domestic: $301,959,197
– Total International: $934,416,487
– Opening Weekend Domestic: $77,835,727
– Opening Weekend International: $313,835,727
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 84%
Deathly Hallows – Part 1
Release date: 19th November 2010
Awards include: Empire Awards – Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy; Contribution to Cinematic Imagery Award; World Soundtrack Award – Film Composer of the Year – Alexandre Desplat
– Total Domestic: $295,983,305
– Total International: $956,399,711
– Opening Weekend Domestic: $125,017,372
– Opening Weekend International: $330,017,372
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 79%
Deathly Hallows – Part 2
Final World Premiere: London, 7th July 2011
Release date: 15th July 2011
Awards include: AFI Film Award – Special Award; Art Directors’ Guild – Contribution to Cinematic Imagery Award, Excellence in Production Design; BAFTA Awards – Best Special Visual Effects; Broadcast Film Critics Association – Best Makeup; Empire Awards – Best Director, Best Film; Grammy Awards – Best Score Soundtrack
– Total Domestic: $381,011,219
– Total International: $1,328,111,219
– Opening Weekend Domestic: $169,189,427
– Opening Weekend International: $483,189,427
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 96%